November 27, 2011

Movie Review: The Muppets (2011)

I grew up with the Muppets. I remember watching the show with the funny antics and celebrity guests, Animal going crazy, Kermit and Piggy, Gonzo and his chickens, and let's not forget the Swedish Chef and Lew always blowing stuff (or himself) up! It was always so much fun, and then there were the movies. You cannot deny that there was something special about Jim Hensen's creations; however, you also cannot deny that they have fallen out of favor over the years. Sure, the Muppet Christmas Carol gets some annual play, but generally speaking, there hasn't been all that much of a place for them for sometime. Well, Jason Segel set out to prove that attitude to be wrong and does just that.

The Muppets is a movie that is aware of what it is trying to do. It realizes that it is playing the roll of underdog, trying to make these classic characters relevant again. The screenplay gleefully embraces this status and just goes for it. As written by Segel (who is an unabashed fan of the Muppets since his youth and has lng wanted to make a movie with them) and Nicholas Stoller (who directed Segel and his vampire puppet show in Forgetting Sarah Marshall) the movie trades on the nostalgia that so many adults must have for them, while not forgetting that this could also be the introduction of these characters for a new generation.

The story introduces us to Gary (Segel), resident of Smalltown USA, big brother to the newest Muppet character, Walter, and boyfriend to the lovely Mary (Amy Adams). Gary and Walter grew up as fans of the Muppets. Walter, in particular, was enthralled with them. In them he saw hope and laughter. The three then travel to Los Angeles and part of said trip includes visiting the Muppet Theater, which is now a rundown shell about to be sold to a ruthless oil baron (Chris Cooper).

The bulk of the film has the starstruck Walter helping Kermit put the gang back together to put on one more show. They have a chance to stop the oil baron from getting the studio, but they have to raise some money. This movie just had me grinning from ear to ear.

It really is a simple story, one that doesn't take a lot of brain power to figure out. Its success lies in the execution. The screenplay is full of heart that gets the characters right, there is funny stuff, sweet stuff, nostalgic stuff, and sad stuff. All of these things come together into a magical concoction that is the stuff of happiness.

No, this is not the greatest thing ever, but it is one of those movies that is clever, knows its place and just does it. I loved the characters, the songs are catchy, and it did what it set out to, make the Muppets fun again. Sure, it's not like they ever really went away, but they have not really been a big part of pop culture over the past decade or so, more along the fringe.

I feel like I am starting to ramble. I just really enjoyed this movie. There are some really funny jokes and bits, there are a bunch of fun cameos, plus the requisite nostalgia. This is a movie I think I can watch a bunch of times without it ever getting old and I feel the desire to revisit the old movies.

On one last note, I really liked Animal's story thread, and Chris Cooper's bad guy laugh, and Rowlf's bit, and Walter's reaction to the oil baron, and Amy Adams solo song, and the references to them being in a movie, and so much more.

Highly Recommended.

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